American Dream Builders: Blandings Build a Dream House

American Dream Builders (Photo: NBC)
American Dream Builders (Photo: NBC)

Rather than give us a new season of Celebrity Apprentice, NBC works with Nate Berkus on a renovation competition series American Dream Builders. It’s a nightmare.

Show

American Dream Builders, which airs Sundays at 8pm on NBC. The first episode aired March 23.

Premise

Twelve designers/renovators are split into teams, each tasked with renovating similar spaces to address common concerns. In the premiere, each team had to renovate a tudor-style house to maximize space for the large family calling it home. This isn’t America’s Next Top Renovator as each contestant has already achieved notoriety in her/his field.

Pedigree

The structure of the show is similar to NBC’s The Apprentice, in that both teams have a task and a Project Site Manager. Nate Berkus is a known quantity, having hosted a talk show spun-off from the Oprah empire a few years back. Also, the product placement for Southwest and Zillow is about as subtle as the shoutouts for Jennie-O on The Biggest Loser.

What Works

American Dream Builders is a renovation show at its core, so you get the joy of a reveal and the oohs and ahhs of seeing new backsplashes and granite countertops.

What Doesn’t Work

Design competitions have a pretty lousy track record (Top DesignHGTV’s Star1) and this show continues that trend. Part of the problem with the genre is that the designers have to take things outside of the clients’ interests into consideration, such as proving they deserve to be there or standing out for the judges. Sure the animal print sofa in the TV nook may be stylish and what’s in now, but is that really the best choice in a house with five kids under the age of 12?

Also, I get the sense that 99.9% of designers are mild-mannered individuals in real life. The dozen knuckleheads they cast for this show all seem to have graduated from one of those How to Be On a Reality Show workshops. Everything everyone says is screechy and fresh out of the reality TV quote generator.2 This is particularly shocking, given that this show has a credited writer prominently displayed in the show’s opening credits.3

Verdict

American Dream Builders ends up being more about bickering and gamesmanship than renovations or perpetuating the myth of home ownership as the American dream to which everyone should be striving. The twist of having a “neighborhood council” of a hundred or so people evaluating the renovations sounds good on paper, but adds a weird Stepford quality to the proceedings. With all this window dressing, there is not enough time for the viewer to appreciate or evaluate the changes. Pass.

  1. Sorry, Sandra  
  2. To be fair, no one has said “I’m not here to make friends” yet.  
  3. Yes, reality shows have writers for intros/catchphrases/jokes, but this is the first time I recall seeing that credit so front-and-center.  

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About Mike McComb 656 Articles
Mike has been writing about TV online since 2008, when he started the blog WTF Little House on the Prairie? The blog was a project to practice writing about television analytically prior to getting an MA in Television-Radio-Film from Syracuse University, or as he likes to call it "TV Camp." After a lengthy stint at TVLatest, Mike wanted to launch a site that brought in classic TV, diamonds in the rough, and the shows everybody watches. E-mail: mike@whatelseison.tv